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What Is Fibromyalgia?

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Fibromyalgia is the most common musculoskeletal condition after osteoarthritis. Still, it is often misdiagnosed and misunderstood. Its characteristics include widespread muscle and joint pain and fatigue, as well as other symptoms. Fibromyalgia can lead to depression and social isolation.

This overview of fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) covers symptoms, diagnosis, and both standard and alternative treatments.

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What Is Fibromyalgia Syndrome?

A syndrome is a set of symptoms. When they exist together, they imply the presence of a specific disease or a greater chance of developing the disease. With fibromyalgia syndrome, the following symptoms commonly occur together:

 

Are Women More Likely to Get Fibromyalgia Than Men?

More than 12 million Americans have fibromyalgia. Most of them are women between ages 25 and 60. Women are 10 times more likely to get this disease than men.

What Are Fibromyalgia Symptoms?

Fibromyalgia causes you to ache all over. You may have symptoms of crippling fatigue -- even on arising. Specific tender points on the body may be painful to touch. You may experience disturbances in deep-level or restful sleep, and mood disturbances or depression.

Your muscles may feel like they have been overworked or pulled. They'll feel that way even without exercise or another cause. Sometimes, your muscles twitch, burn, or have deep stabbing pain.

Some patients with fibromyalgia have pain and achiness around the joints in the neck, shoulder, back, and hips. This makes it difficult for them to sleep or exercise. Other fibromyalgia symptoms include:

Fibromyalgia can cause signs and feelings similar to osteoarthritis, bursitis, and tendinitis. Some experts include it in this group of arthritis and related disorders. However, while the pain of bursitis or tendinitis is localized to a specific area, pain and stiffness with fibromyalgia are widespread.

What Tests Are Used to Diagnose Fibromyalgia?

To make an accurate diagnosis, your doctor will rely on a comprehensive physical exam and your medical history. There is a blood test to help diagnose fibromyalgia. The test -- called FM/a -- identifies markers produced by immune system blood cells in people with fibromyalgia. However, more study is needed to test the efficacy of the test, which costs more than $700. Ask your doctor if the FM/a test is right for you.

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